As baby boomers begin to transition from an accumulation mindset into a distribution mindset, advisers must keep in mind that the retirement benefit landscape is becoming an increasingly complex playing field.

Of course, the primary set of best practices remains the same: a focus on accumulation and saving. However, the more complicated and nuanced environment means it’s more important than ever for advisers to take the time to truly understand a plan sponsor client’s objectives, and make sure recommendations are tailored to meet their specific needs. This optimizes precious resources and increases the likelihood of achieving the goals that are most important to them.

Given the shifts in the industry, advisers also need to help plan sponsor clients think about retirement benefit programs from a different perspective – one which aligns with broader company objectives. In our experience, the most effective method for achieving this is to take time to talk with them and help them develop a retirement benefit philosophy.

Philosophy

A retirement benefit philosophy (RBP) identifies key objectives for the benefits program that will inform the adviser’s recommendations for strategic priorities. The philosophy also drives the development of solutions, ensuring these are directly tied to the outcomes that matter most to the organization. In order to accomplish this, we've developed a simple process for determining an RBP that can be followed. This will help arrive at a set of priorities that reflect the needs of the overall organization.

Adding this step to the adviser’s roster of capabilities and skills is important and valuable for a number of reasons.

First, for advisers to attract and retain new business, it’s important to be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of and focus on a client’s needs and objectives. Developing a retirement benefit philosophy helps facilitate that focus and provides tangible insights about the clients’ needs. It also creates a structure for collecting the necessary information.

Second, given that advisers are in an increasingly crowded field of competitors, it is important for them to differentiate their approach from their peers. The reality is that the majority of advisers still approach strategic planning with a set list of best practices, rather than acknowledging the unique aspects of a client that might require a more tailored approach. For clients, being encouraged and guided in creating a retirement benefit philosophy will set their adviser apart, and provide a value-add that resonates and helps them over the long term. All of this allows the adviser to communicate his/her differentiated value and competitive position.

Additionally, it’s very common for advisers to serve the smaller end of the market. Those sponsors may have fewer resources, so helping to focus their efforts by having a strong, clear, retirement benefit philosophy may help them achieve their specific goals. Just as with the larger clients, having the adviser bring this type of approach to the smaller market plan sponsors will underline the value they add to this process and help the sponsors focus on what matters.

Ultimately, by working with clients to develop a retirement benefit philosophy, advisers can strengthen their own offering while helping clients obtain essential intelligence that will inform retirement program objectives and support broader organizational goals.

Negron is national director, relationship management at T. Rowe Price Retirement Plan Services, Inc.

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